In Joshimath, residents face bitter cold and a sinking feeling | India News

JOSHIMATH: With winter at its peak, tragedy couldn’t have come at a worse time for the residents of this picturesque town, situated at an elevation of over 6,000 feet and regarded as the gateway to Badrinath, Auli and Valley of Flowers.
With temperatures hovering almost near the zero mark, people here are forced to battle fears about their future in the biting cold as their homes — and lives — crumble in front of their eyes.
A spot visit by a TOI team on Sunday revealed how lives have been directly affected by the tragedy that has befallen the beleaguered town, where almost every other building has developed cracks.
Standing near his house with worry writ large on his face, Durga Prashad Saklani (53), a resident of Sunil area in Joshimath, said that his house, which he built barely eight months ago, has developed such huge cracks that he had been forced to place wooden logs to prevent the roof from crumbling.
“My family of 15 has been asked to vacate our house and shift to a nearby hotel. But for how long are we going to stay there? We remain outdoors during the day and only go to our house to sleep to escape the freezing cold,” Saklani added.
The house of Chandra Ballabh Pandey in Manoharbagh area, too, has become uninhabitable for the past two weeks. The floor of the house has swelled by 6-8 inches and the house has started leaning towards the right.
With moist eyes, Pandey said, “I built my home in 1999 and now I am seeing it falling apart in front of my eyes. Even though the administration has asked me to vacate the place immediately, it is tearing me apart. My heart is in this house and will always remain so, irrespective of what happens.”
Sitting around the bonfire inside the Joshimath municipality centre, Devendra Singh Rawat (67), an ex- Sashastra Seema Bal jawan, said, “My grandchildren have been asking me when they would return to their home. I have no answer.”
Rawat’s house, situated behind the precariously leaning Mount View hotel, was among the first six dwellings vacated by the local authorities. On Sunday, officials and volunteers of the district administration could be seen conducting a door-to-door exercise of identifying “unfit houses”.
Some of the residents told TOI that they have been hearing constant noise of seepage of water from beneath their houses where cracks continue to widen every passing day. “It seems that the water is opening up the foundation of our houses,” said Kunti Devi, a resident.
With the meteorological department forecasting rain and snow in higher reaches in the coming days, residents face the daunting prospect of temperatures plummeting further, which could add to their misery.
“Ours was a town filled with joy and happiness before this tragedy set in. But now, there is fear and sorrow. We are praying that this ordeal soon ends,” said Rameshwar Prashad, a priest at Jyotishwar Kalpvriksh temple.
Watch Hundreds of houses develop cracks, residents flee fearing ‘Joshimath is sinking’

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